At the end of a week chock full of Microsoft news, the bloggers at Gizmodo got their hands on al PowerPoint deck full of mock-ups of Microsoft's planned retail stores.
Microsoft public relations has tried to put a damper on the deck, claiming the presentation from creative agency Lippicott is based on early prototype and concept briefings. As the Giz guys note, however, the PowerPoints in question are dated July 7 and Microsoft execs have said the first stores will open this fall (next-door to Apple's stores). If Microsoft is still floating "early concepts" just a few months before the lights are set to come on, something's amiss....
Back to the deck. Gizmodo describes the Microsoft stores as taking "the best elements from the Apple Store, Sony Style and other 'flagship' stores and mashing them all together. (There's even an "Answers bar"... sound familiar?)
The Giz editors say they're surprised how much the Microsoft stores will push the PCTV concept. PCTV is part of Microsoft's IPTV, a k a "Mediaroom," on-demand/live-feed products/strategy.
Blogger Chris Lanier, who specializes in covering Microsoft's digital-media technologies, notes that it's pretty murky as to exactly what Microsoft plans to push in its forthcoming retail stores regarding "PCTV." Is it IPTV/Mediaroom? Is it Windows Media Center? Something to do with the Xbox? And most importantly, is Microsoft's evolving direction anything that existing Microsoft users will want?
From Lanier's July 26 post on the leaked store-concept deck:
"It has been my theory that Microsoft is slowly ditching the concept of using and promoting Media Center as a whole home entertainment experience and moving to the 'TV on your PC' concept which they have been actively promoting over the past 6 months. This concept is something that most Media Center enthusiasts don’t want to believe as it turns Media Center into a product that most current users have no interest in."
In recent months, Microsoft execs have been emphasizing Microsoft's three-prong "three-screen" approach to delivering technology -- with the three being the PC, the TV and the mobile device. At the same time, Microsoft has been alienating a lot of its Media Center faithful with various decisions, while simultaneously downplaying and de-emphasizing the Ultimate SKU of Windows (which, up until now, has been the Media Center centerpiece).
Microsoft's retail stores will be highlighting Windows 7, Windows Mobile/Windows Phone, Xbox, Zune and the Surface. Hopefully, they'll provide more of a clue about where Microsoft is intending to go in the TV realm once their doors open....